More police and more prisons won’t stop crime in the long run

Of the $643 million Ottawa earmarked to “tackle crime” in 2006/07, just $20 million will go towards prevention.

Of the $643 million Ottawa earmarked to “tackle crime” in 2006/07, just $20 million will go towards prevention.

It is just a smidge more than three per cent.

And that’s “embarrassing,” says Crime Prevention Yukon’s manager Catherine Morginn.

“In my opinion, that’s not very responsible and it’s not respectful to the victims who are going to be created by the crimes.

“It’s not fiscally responsible either, as dealing with someone who’s already moved into a criminal lifestyle is way more expensive than helping the parents who are struggling in the community raising those kids.”

The bulk of the federal funding is going toward enforcement and corrections, and it’s clear there’s no shortage of money.

There’s $161 million to hire 1,000 new RCMP officers and federal prosecutors, and $37 million to train them.

There’s $101 million to begin arming border officers — on Thursday, the true cost ballooned to $1 billion over 10 years — and $303-million border strategy.

There’s $15 million to fill the national DNA bank with samples from convicts and another $26 million to give crime victims better access to services.

And there’s a yet undisclosed amount of funding set aside to expand jails to cope with the increase in inmates expected from harsher sentencing rules the Conservatives plan to implement as part of their tough-on-crime campaign.

Despite all the cash the government is diverting to jails and policing, it’s not going to deal with the issue in the long run, said Morginn.

“Strengthening social programming is key,” she said.

“You can lock up your house as much as you want, but if you’ve got somebody who is motivated to commit a crime, they’ll just go to a house that isn’t as well locked up as yours.”

Crime must be stopped at its root by focusing on the social ills that lead to a life behind bars, said Morginn.

“We need to be dealing with the whole person.

“We can’t take an offender that has a substance-abuse problem, stick them in a substance-abuse program and consider it solved.

“People become who they are for a variety of reasons and you can’t just change one thing in their life and expect them to be well,” she said.

Thwarting crime and the “revolving-door cycle” of convicts returning to prisons starts with educating children, said Yukon Legal Aid executive director Nils Clark.

“The literature tells us that the child you see at age six or seven, is the adult you will have.

“So it’s not rocket science that early intervention is much more effective than engaging in a jail-building project.”

But setting up the social structure to support youth and families is not as easy as it sounds, said Carleton University sociology professor Dr. Tullio Caputo, who was in the Yukon this week for Crime Prevention Week.

The root causes of crime are varied and to head them off requires the co-operation of organizations not used to working together, such as criminal justice, social services, health and education, he said.

“The challenge in the Yukon is the same challenge that many communities face: there are many organizations and agencies who agree on the need for crime prevention, but struggle with the ways and means to get it done,” said Caputo.

“Each department understands their part, but the system is set up in a way that makes it impossible for them to work in a truly collaborative way.”

The $20 million set aside for prevention is focused on youth crime, guns, gangs and drugs.

In August, Stockwell Day, minister of Public Safety, announced how more than $700,000 of that will fund crime prevention initiatives in the Yukon.

The lion’s share went to Yukon Community Court with $566,700. Yukon Family Services got $120,768 to support parents in the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and nearly $50,000 for the Extremely Moving Youth Society’s lunch and after-school programs for high-risk youth.

Earlier this week, Statistics Canada released a report detailing soaring crime rates in the Canadian North.

Residents of Yukon, NWT and Nunavut are three times more likely to be raped, robbed or beaten up, according to the national study, Victimization and Offending in Canada’s Territories, released on Monday.

October 30 to November 5 is Crime Prevention Week.

Thursday night, Crime Prevention Yukon hosted a banquet to honour citizens for their work in thwarting crime, and launched its new website at http://crimeprevention.yk.ca.

And this weekend, the non-profit will host two “staying safe” workshops.

The first, on crime-proofing your home, begins on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the society’s office located at 205 Rogers Street.

“Certainly break-and-enters are high,” said Morginn.

The Yukon saw 497 break-and-enters in 2005, a rate almost double the provincial average and surpassed only by numbers in the NWT and Nunavut, according to a recent StatsCan report.

Crime Prevention Yukon will host another workshop on identity theft Sunday at 2 p.m.